Sunday, August 7, 2011

August 8, 1861 (Thursday): Lee Faces A Mountainous Task

Civil War WV (NPS)

Valley Mountain, August 8, 1861.

General J. B. FLOYD,

Commanding, Lewisburg, Virginia:

   GENERAL:  I have learned from a letter received from General Wise this morning that you intended moving upon Lewisburg yesterday.  The general reports his legion unprepared at present to take the field for want of tents, clothing, means of transportation, &c., for which he has sent to Staunton.  I have written to him to day to join you as soon as possible.  A part of his force now occupies, I believe, Meadow Bluff, and from his cavalry scouts you will learn of the proceedings of the enemy in your front.  I need not repeat to you the importance of holding the enemy west of Lewisburg if possible, and of preventing his approach by the turnpikes through Raleigh to the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad in Wythe and Washington Counties, and in Pulaski County.  I hope some Southern regiments have by this time been posted at Wytheville, and should you learn that such is the case you are desired to keep in communication with their commander, to give such directions to the troops collected on the Fayette and Raleigh turnpike as may be necessary, and to assume the control of the troops operating in the Kanawha District, unless otherwise ordered by the Secretary of War.  It may be proper to inform you that a part of General Loring’s forces occupy this position with its depot and reserve at Jackson, holds a position on the Staunton and Parkersburg turnpike, where it crosses the Alleghany, having its reserve and depot at Monterey.  You are desired to communicate to him any information of interest to his command.  I learn from recent advices believed to be reliable that the enemy is fortifying Charleston, repairing the Gauley bridge, and is advanced seven or eight miles east to the Hawk’s Nest.  His march with 300 infantry to Fayette Court-House was for the purpose of releasing some prisoners confined there in jail.  General Cox is said to have made himself very acceptable to the inhabitants of Kanawha Valley by his considerate conduct, and that he has between 3,000 and 4,000 men at Gauley River.  I also learn that the troops that had been sent to Summersville from this line are returning, probably walled by the advance to this point.  I have heard of no movement of the enemy as yet threatening the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad.
    I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                         R. E. LEE,
                                                                                         General, Commanding.

Series I., Vol. 51, Part II, Page 220.

Lee had been sent by Davis to Western Virginia to consult with Loring, Floyd, and Wise and develop a plan of action to recover as much of western Virginia as possible.  It is interesting to consider that in the aftermath of Bull Run, the Confederate preoccupation was not to press their advantage along the Manassas line and threaten Washington as much as it was to protect the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad and push the Union forces away from their positions at Cheat Mountain, thus protecting Staunton.  Floyd and Wise were constantly at odds and it often seemed the 15 miles between Confederate headquarters at Valley Mountain (near Marlinton) and union forces at Cheat Mountain might as well have been 1500.  In addition to the internal problems facing Lee, the territory between the two armies was as forbidding as any encountered during the war.

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